My Goedel’s Killing Me

Well, my dears, and what have I been reading this week?  Firstly, in response to a programme about Bach, I’ve been reading a book Mark has been pressing on me for years.  It’s called ‘Goedel, (pronounced girdle, lol) Escher, Bach’ and it’s about patterns and fugues and patterns within patterns and counterpointing thingies and how all of this links together the three protagonists.  Sadly I have to admit to reading the Escher, Bach bits and skipping the Goedel bits (which are about Maths) because I can’t understand them.  So my Goedel really is killing me…  Jan will be very disappointed in me – but I can’t help it: it’s taking all my concentration to deal with the other bits; although I did suss out the MU puzzle (about combinations of letters) straight away, so felt quite proud of myself for that.  Mark, on the other hand, maintains that ‘GEB’ is ‘an easy read’.  Bedtime reading, he called it.  Accessible to everyone.

I ask you!,_Escher,_Bach

I can only cope with short bursts of GEB at a time, so I have turned to the Crime Reading Group’s latest offering, ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ by S J Watson.

It’s a fascinating and horrifying read and it’s close to my heart – or head – because it’s about memory loss.  It has an unreliable narrator – unreliable because she forgets everything as soon as she goes to sleep, and so has to start from scratch again the following day.  The story begins when she starts to keep a journal, and the journal forms a book-within-a-book, which is rather like one of GEB’s patterns, now that I come to think of it.  Christine doesn’t know she is married, has forgotten that she has a son, and unknown to her husband, is having frequent meetings with a doctor who is trying to help her.  But perhaps her husband is not all he seems…

Definitely one to read.  I couldn’t put it down and so finished it in almost one sitting, after which it inspired me to begin my own memoir of forgetting, which I am calling ‘I am the Anti-Proust’.

I’ll leave you with a conversation from this morning:

Mark to me:  ‘What’s got a hazelnut in every bite?’
Me: ‘Oo! Whatever happened to Topic?’
Mark: ‘It’s no longer Topical.’

Kirk out


6 thoughts on “My Goedel’s Killing Me

  1. When I first got to know my partner and asked him about what he read this was the one book he mentioned to me. I remember reading some of it and it being very clever but confess it has not left much of an impression. I bought him another, I think it’s called ‘I am a strange loop’ or something like that, but I don’t think he read it.
    I did enjoy Before I go to Sleep, very dark and twisted and clever, and unexpected.

  2. I’m a bit of a fan of Godel Escher Bach myself and I have read more of Douglas Hofstadter’s work since. I think the dialogues in the style of Lewis Carroll make what could be a dry read much more digestible and the way the threads of music, art and artificial intelligence are brought together make the book a masterful piece of popular scientific writing. Maybe it is just a bloke thing?

    1. Hi Andrew. No, I don’t think it’s just a bloke thing – I like most of the book including the dialogues but it’s not easy reading and I do struggle with the Goedel bits. What else do you like by Hofstadter?

      1. good review and not too long, as many are! I didn’t realise it ended up being about AI – I just thought it was about patterns. I can understand the stuff about patterns very well when it relates to music and painting; I just stall at the Maths. I think I have a problem understanding the statements he makes, but I have to have a closer look at it to tell you exactly how. What with writing most hours of the day, I have limited energy left for this kind of reading anyway, so it’s a bit of an uphill struggle.

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